Monday, August 29, 2011

Disaster and the Blessings...

In my last post, I talked about one type of natural disaster. But today, we are talking about another: Hurricane Irene.

Brandon and I grew up in Augusta, Georgia. And one little quirk about our hometown is that if you are traveling and "lost" you just follow the evacuation signs to find your way. I happen to know that it REALLY works because I got turned around on the way home from Charleston, South Carolina, in my pre-GPS days, and tested my theory.

So we've never really dealt with hurricanes. Rain and storms, but never this. So we were naive. But we did the best we could with our (limited) knowledge. We bought charcoal, lighters, flashlights, batteries, and some food that didn't need refrigeration. I made sure we had plenty of diapers, wipes and toilet paper. I bought shelf stable milk for the boys. We filled our bathtub and large pots with water. We put our important papers in a Rubbermaid container with the diaper bags. We set that by the door in case we needed to make a quick exit from our place. We filled our van's gas tank. Brandon and I prayed that Richmond would be spared.

And then we went to bed. To be honest, we thought we over-reacted but locals kept telling us about when Isabel hit in 2003. Several people told us that they were without power for 12 or more days.

Saturday, Brandon went to work as usual. It was overcast and windy. At home, the power flickered on and off. But it always came back on.

Brandon's office shut down right before his lunch break. I was relieved that Brandon was home. I always feel safer with him by my side. We went about our business. The rain started and I laid all the kids down for a nap. Shortly after, around 5, our power went off. I held my breath for a bit, willing it to come back on. But nothing happened.

I was reading in bed, when a high pitch squeal started sounding. I woke Brandon and asked him what it was. He asked me what it was. It was so loud, I couldn't think. It was in our room, but no where else. I asked on facebook. Eventually I realized that it was coming from the floor in our closet. Finally we got through to our maintenance hotline. They had been inundated with people calling because they had no ac. (Dear fellow Richmonders, if you have no power, calling the apartment complex hotline for your ac not working is fruitless.)

Turns out, since our apartment is technically a basement apartment, we have a sump pump. (I had no idea what a sump pump is. Have a mentioned in Georgia we have attics, not basements?) Well when the power went out, the sump pump quit working and the water level was rising, so the water level alarm sounded. Lesson learned. We also learned from the maintenance worker that we had no way out of our apartment complex because there were trees and power lines down. He happened to be on property, which is how he got to us so quickly.

We hunkered down. The worst was yet to come. We opened our blinds for some light until the sun went down, reserving our batteries. Then at dark, we put the boys to bed, and let the girls play cards in the same room we were in so we would only have to use one flashlight.

We all eventually went to bed. Hoping we'd have power the next morning.

The next morning came and we woke up sweaty. Brandon and I had slept on top of the covers and the children had minimal pajamas on. We were all hot and it was getting hotter as the morning went on.

We only have large windows on one side of the apartment and the breeze wasn't going the right direction to come in. We had no cell service. Having to think on our feet, we packed just a few days worth of clothes, the milks (coconut and whole) from our fridge, grabbed some food
supplies and headed out.

We had no idea where to go really. We did get out of our neighborhood and saw that we had no street lights or traffic lights. There were entire power poles down. Trees had smashed fences, lines, etc. Gas stations were closed.

I finally got a little cell service on my phone and saw that most of the Richmond hotels were full from other evacuees coming into the capital, so we headed west, reasoning that the east would be worse off than we were. (We are on the west side of Richmond.)

We drove until we saw a decent looking hotel and stopped to see if they had any available rooms. We took the room.

And this is where we've been since. We did venture back into Richmond today to look for Brandon's phone that got lost in the hustle and bustle of trying to pack with four very scared and one absolutely hysterical child. (Xander does not take well to his routine being changed.. ever!) We did find the phone. The power was not restored and since then the outage line has backtracked and taken away our predicted time (that has since passed.) The food in our freezer and fridge will be a total loss. The line at the gas station was VERY long. Some intersections were manned by police officers. Every now and then we'd find one that worked. Some had no one manning the intersection.

Among all of this craziness, there are many blessings we've seen.

1. We received an email from the K's letting us know that they were praying for us and telling us of the preparations they had made for Annalise before the storm had even gotten to us.

2. We are safe. Some of us are frazzled, some of us are scared. But we are together and unharmed.

3. Our apartment did not sustain any damage from flooding. When the maintenance worker arrived, he pretty much told us to prepare for our master bedroom closet to flood. He even helped us move everything out and then he advised us to shut the closet door and lay a towel down. This was to help prevent our bedroom/entire apartment from flooding.

4. We had used a lot of our frozen/refrigerated food stores in preparation for the end of our lease. So we didn't lose as much as we could have.

5. We have an emergency fund (Thank you Dave Ramsey) that is taking a hit, but serving it's purpose.

6. My girls think this is a vacation. When we went back to check our power this afternoon, we thought to grab the swim suits. So we enjoyed our hotel's pool this afternoon. And we grabbed laundry soap, so we used their laundry facilities as well. The swimming helped burn a good bit of energy and that is helping my children fall asleep tonight.

7. Brandon and I have been able to rest in the Lord's plans for us. We believe that THIS is the reason that Annalise hasn't been able to come home to us yet.

8. We've learned a ton. We've learned about God's goodness and how to prepare better if there is a next time.

Thank you Jesus, for keeping our family safe. Thank you for these life lessons. We love You and praise You!


Thursday, August 25, 2011


Tuesday, we experienced our first earthquake. We had no idea what it was, though.

Brandon had come home for lunch. We enjoyed a family lunch and as Brandon and I started to get up to pack his dinner, everything started shaking. I ran to look out of the window sure that something had exploded.

Instead I saw a beautiful, sunny day!

Brandon and I walked outside. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

We walked around our building (we are on the backside by ourselves) and saw some neighbors outside. We asked what happened and they told us it was an earthquake.

I wasn't aware that Virginia had earthquakes so I hopped online to confirm, and sure enough, we had an earthquake!

Not exactly something on my bucket list.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

MIC-KEY Button Info...

I won't lie.. I was more than a little concerned about Annalise's MIC-KEY button. However, I found a support group on Facebook and I spent some free time (har har!) reading their postings and watching their videos. The knowledge empowered me and I pounced on Brandon when he walked in the door one night to tell him all I learned.

But Brandon is a hands on learner. So I was secretly pleased when Mama K walked Brandon through giving Annalise her first feeding from her new Daddy! I watched on and sure enough, it was exactly like the video said.

Now I am certain that this is manageable!

We've gotten a few questions about what it is like and how it works, so I thought I'd post a video I found. This is how we will feed her all of her baby formula. She is working on taking things by mouth, but they have to be thickened to at least a honey or nectar consistency because she aspirates liquids. Maybe one day, but for now we choose to be thankful that she can receive her nutrition through another method! For now, her goal is to be a "social eater." That means that they want her to be able to sit at the table with her family and taste things. Like if she were at a birthday party, she could take a bite of cake, etc.

Annalise has a feeding pump that puts 1 cc through the tube a minute. So her 60 cc (about 2 fluid ounces) feedings take one hour. Then 3 hours from the start of her first feed, she starts again. So really, there will be a two hour break in between feedings. Her feeding pump will go everywhere with us. Her feedings are done at 6 am, 9 am, 12 noon, 3 pm, 6 pm, 9 pm.

Overnight, she has a continuous feed as she sleeps.

We are also using this video to show our girls how their new sister will eat. Of course, when I first told Julianne that Annalise doesn't use bottles, she thought I was going to nurse her "like Solomon." You should have seen her face when I told her no, not that way either. My poor little boogie-bear was SO confused! (Psst... it is possible to nurse an adoptive baby..)

Click on the link below. It will take you to You Tube.



Sunday, August 21, 2011

And we wait..

(A picture I took on our trip to Susanna's. Doesn't it look like a postcard? Or a puzzle? Absolutely gorgeous!)

Our Interstate Compact paperwork left the NJ office on Friday afternoon... All FIVE sets of 200+ papers.

This is the ONE thing left to complete for Annalise to come home. As soon as this is cleared, we can go pick her up!!!!

Pray with me that red tape moves quickly!

Also, please continue to pray for my friend, Susanna. She is waiting for paperwork and red tape to clear so that she can travel internationally to bring Katerina home. Pray protection over Katerina. They are expecting to wait about 4 months to return to her, but we are praying for it to be expedited!



Friday, August 19, 2011

Finally, a meet up with Susanna!

We took a little detour on our way back from New Jersey and stopped in at my friend's home. You may remember that we were supposed to go to a Memorial Day Picnic that Susanna and Joe host and that didn't work out earlier this year.

Susie had a very hectic day and was just eating breakfast (!!) when I called to let her know that we were stuck in traffic and wouldn't be arriving when I thought... That was between 2-3pm. (They were preparing for Susie to travel to meet their Katie-Bird!)

However, God had amazing plans for our meeting. One of her friends brought her supper that afternoon, so she was able to finish what she needed and didn't have to worry about supper prep. And it was enough that she asked us to join them for dinner. This gave us more time to chat!

Their house was our refuge after a few whirlwind days. Brandon and I were able to encourage Joe and Susanna in their adoption and the calm and peace in their home and their personalities were able to soothe our frazzled nerves. Of course, I was able to blabber about our newest baby girl and I had a chance to view a video of Katie! We also talked a lot about her upcoming trip.

Joe unknowingly really encouraged Brandon in their chats. I have found incredible support online through the MOMYS group and I often forget that Brandon is often lacking that fellowship and encouragement.

I did get to hold sweet Verity for a few seconds, but stranger anxiety has set in. I understood full well since Solomon is only about a month or so older than Verity.

I have to say that her part of Pennsylvania is GORGEOUS! It was very green and there were fields and livestock outside our windows for most of that portion of our drive. The area had a very innocent feel to it. Let's just say that there was a marked difference between it and Philadelphia. ;)

Susanna and Joe, along with their ten children, were gracious hosts. I wish we had more time to spend with them.. but as I said during our departure, I bet I have no problems getting Brandon back out there again! ;)


PS: This was just the beginning of a series of blessings poured out upon us.... I can't wait to share all that God has done! AND Blogger is giving me FITS! I'm trying to upload a picture of a horse and buggy parked in the parking lot of a grocery store!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Meeting

("Hurple", Annalise's lovey, picked by our girls, named by Little K.)

As we walked into the K's home, we were greeted by Daddy K, Mama K, Little K (their 9 year old daughter) and the adoption coordinator. Annalise was no where in sight. We shook hands, introduced ourselves and sat on the couch.

Little K asked who we were. I wasn't sure what her parents had told her so I looked to Mama K. Mama K said we might be the baby's new parents. The word *might* pierced my heart but as I looked at Little K to shake my head yes, I realized that her heart was being pierced at the same time. She's had 8 months of a little sister. She obviously loves our girl. I made a mental note that we should be mindful of Little K's feelings. She asked if we were her parents, would we keep in touch. I said that would be no problem as long as her parents allowed it. She smiled and sat at my feet, watching me carefully.

Immediately, Mama K said she was going to get the "the girl of the day!" And soon I had 10 lbs of sweet baby in my arms. She studied me hard. She could tell I was new. At first she had her body very stiff. I coo'd to her and told her how beautiful she was. I held her so that she could study Brandon too. Soon Brandon and Annalise were playing with each other's hands. To be perfectly honest, I had wondered about her tiny hands but soon she was gripping Brandon finger with her thumb and pointer finger. She has quite a grip!

Soon she relaxed and molded into my body. Huge smiles that take up her whole face were starting to show. There were a few times that we were speaking with the other adults in the room and she'd poke me to make sure I was still paying attention to her.

Every so often, I'd hear "Stephanie?" and I'd look up.. a bit embarrassed that I had obviously gotten caught looking into my new daughter's face and tuning the rest of the world out. It was just us, staring at each other and taking each other in.

I'm not allowed to publish pictures. But I'll do my best to describe Annalise. She has very dark brown skin that looks fabulous in turquoise, coral and pink. She has very long, thick eyelashes and very prominent eyebrows. She has a ton of curly hair that Mama K puts a bow in each morning. She smiles easily. Her cry is tiny and unlike anything I've ever heard. We only heard her cry once in the 6.5 hours that we were there that afternoon and that was when she wanted to come back to me while we were eating dinner. *grin* She bats at toys, she can spin around on her activity mat using just her feet and head. She has an effective pincher grasp on her left hand. She also grabbed our fingers with a very tight grip as if to say "Gotcha!" She has no teeth yet. She is very tiny and is just starting to wear 3 month clothes.

You can probably see why I was in my own little world watching her...

Soon the birthparent counselor came. She shared some details about her birthparents that we had not known. Soon all the agency workers left us with the K's and we continued to talk about her medical history. Mama K has a thick notebook with details of every appointment, every test result, etc. I glanced through it but it was far too much to read in one sitting when I wanted to soak up every second with Brandon and Annalise. She told me that notebook will come home with Annalise. She also told me what she believes should be the next steps in her care.

I shared a little book I made with pictures of each of our family members. Annalise studied the pictures intensely. We also gave her a lovely that the girls picked out. Brandon and I slept with the lovey so it would have our scent on it. Annalise looked at it for a long time, taking it all in.

Brandon connected Annalise's feeding tube and held her as she ate. We also watched her eat some babyfood applesauce.

We shared dinner with the K family. We talked about our faiths and just general life. We laughed together. We felt at ease.

A bit after 6 pm, we left to go check into our hotel. After paying a toll, we found our hotel with no issues. We could see the Phillies stadium from our room's window. I took a shower and got dressed again. Brandon did the same but when he came out I was asleep on the bed. He gently woke me and we set out in search of our bank and a real Philly Cheesesteak. Afterwards, we headed back to the K's to meet our girl's favorite night nurse, Mama J.

Mama J was direct and to the point. You can tell that she cares for Annalise deeply. She gave us alot of pointers about choosing a nurse for our family and that was greatly appreciated. We left encouraged and hopeful. Brandon and I crashed into the bed and slept without moving.

The next morning, we drove into Trenton (and paid another toll!) to meet at our agency's office. We cared for Annalise as the K's updated their infant CPR certification just down the hallway. It was a little more awkward being in an office than in a home and I was instantly greatful that we had first met in the K's home. We took a lot of pictures of Annalise. Mama K took a picture of both of us with Annalise. Brandon took a picture of Mama K and Annalise with me. Brandon also took a picture with Little K and Annalise with me.

I kissed Annalise and told her we'd be back soon and to be a good girl for Mama and Daddy K. I blinked a few tiny tears back and I snapped her in her carseat to go home with the K's. We all hugged each other.

Afterwards, we had a meeting with the adoption coordinator and the director of the agency. Parts were tense but I had such peace during those conversations. We were asked if we were sure we wanted to proceed. We both said YES! and soon after we were signing paperwork to start the interstate compact process.

After another toll, (I told you it was a theme!) we grabbed a bite to eat and we were headed south to meet up with a dear friend, Susanna.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our Journey North

(I'm back tracking a bit... trying to keep records of this journey in great detail because let's face it, my memory isn't what it used to be!)

Monday we drove halfway to Georgia and met Auntie Karon and two of my nephews at McDonald's. We ate and chatted and then Brandon moved all of our carseats into Auntie Karon's van. It was hot. The air conditioning was broken in the McDonalds. We seem to bring bad luck to that McDonalds. Last time we met right after the tornados came through. Their air conditioning was messed up then too... and they were out of alot of supplies.

Then Brandon and I drove home. For about half of the trip we sat in complete silence. It felt weird and we laughed nervously. Afterwards we started talking about what expectations we had for the trip to meet Annalise. We also made a list of questions.

As we got nearer to Richmond, we got more and more nervous. Brandon decided that a chiropractic adjustment and a pedicure would relax me. So off we went.

Once we got home, we packed and headed to bed. There wasn't much sleeping done by me. I had too much to think about.

The next morning we woke up before the sun was up. We had heard horror stories of traffic in/around DC but we didn't run into much traffic there.

I was already a little tearful as we made our drive. I missed the Fab Four and we had alot of unknowns about our trip and meeting Annalise/our agency.

I couldn't keep the tears in though, as I saw landmarks in DC just as we heard a tribute to the Seal 6 team. God Bless the USA played during part of the tribute and the tears fell easily.

I'd never been to DC or travelled in the northeast. I was amazed at the sights and looked like a total tourist as I was attempting to snap pictures with the camera on my phone.

We were so unprepared for the tolls that we went through. Our GPS usually steers us clear of toll roads but we paid several on the way to the K's home. (Little did we know that this would be a theme of the trip.)

We made a bathroom stop at a Starbucks and Brandon convinced me to try a Starbucks drink. I don't like coffee but do drink cheap gas station cappuccinos and McDonald's frappes. I can't remember what he picked for me but it was a cold drink. This caffeine/sugar filled drink would later be my downfall.

About 2 miles away from the foster family's home, we stopped at a Wendy's for another bathroom break. I put my make up on and grabbed a drink. We were supposed to eat lunch before we came... but I was a ball of nerves. I started to panic a bit. My face was really splotchy and my hands shook. I fought back tears as I realized that the caffeine had not done a single thing for my nerves. I think I had a four piece nugget from Mickey D's. All I remember is trying not to throw up.

We did have a little comic relief though. Maggie (our Magellan GPS) decided to take us to the end of the road and tell us that we'd arrived. So we had to turn around and read the mailbox numbers to find the K's home. Brandon joked that Maggie was going senile in her "old age." She's almost 3 years old, but Brandon said that is like 60 in GPS years. (Like dog years LOL!)

For about three seconds, I didn't want to get out of the van and knock on the door. But I knew that our new baby girl was inside.

Could we handle her needs? Would we both be on board? Was this indeed, going to be our fifth child? As I knocked on the door, my knees buckled and I thought surely I was going to make a scene if I passed out. Slow deep breaths kept me "with" everyone.

And the moment that I met Mama K I knew everything would be alright. She very quickly went to go get Annalise and love took us in....

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sweet Peace...

(A quote we noticed immediately after walking in the K's home.)

I've been quiet on the blog because we were traveling to visit Annalise! :) Monday we drove halfway to Georgia to meet my aunt so we could pass off the kids. This prevented either of us from having to make the full drive.

Then we left bright and early on Tuesday morning and returned in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Then I took yesterday to process a bit and work on my ultra long to do list. Somethings just never change.

I've had several friends check in with me to see how I'm doing. The truth is that we really dreaded leaving our baby girl behind. There were a few moments that I had to blink back some small tears. But it wasn't nearly as horrible as I predicted.

Here is why:

We have incredible prayer warriors that have been praying for that very moment. The moment we would have to hand our baby girl back and walk away with an unknown return date. I specifically asked several of our friends to pray for that very moment. I even gave them the exact time that the transition should be occurring. It truly was a peace that passes all understanding!

Annalise's foster family is just jaw-droppingly amazing! I've tried to explain what I mean by that a few times and I never feel like I give my description the justice it deserves! Mama K and Daddy K ooze joy and their love for children and Christ! They welcomed us into their home with open arms, they patiently answered all 5 million questions we had for them, they've had incredible amounts of people praying for her from their congregation, they've hoped and prayed for a family to come forward for her... I just can't even begin to share all of the details that make them so incredibly special.

But I do have a few that I would like to take the opportunity to share.

  • The K's have been fostering for 28 years.

  • Annalise is their 76th foster child.

  • They've adopted.

  • Mr. K's parents were also foster parents.

  • They are relentless advocates for children.

  • Shortly after we sat on their couch they handed us Annalise. We did most of her care while we were with her.

  • They invited us back in at 11pm to meet her night nurse.

  • Mrs. K showed me a little scrapbook that she had put together of Annalise's 8 months of life. Precious.. sweet.. thoughtful... WOW!

As much as we want her home, we have no doubts that Annalise is being cared for in a loving way. The peace is amazing and it makes our wait much more bearable.

So much more to share,


PS: Would you lift my friend, Susanna, up in prayer? She starts her travels today to go meet her Katerina! We had the opportunity to share a little bit of time together on Thursday.. but more on that later!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Trying to keep busy...

I've been trying to use my nervous energy to actually accomplish something. (Ya know.. other than pinning inspiration on my Pinterest boards and eating chocolate!)

I started to redo our file system the other day, and my labelmaker died. I can't organize without a labelmaker!

Yesterday, I got a new one and so last night I redid our filing system. Instead of having it in a traditional file folder system, I put everything in a large binder. It took some time and patience but I got it done and it feels great to have it done.

I have a few more little projects to work on. I still have printing to do. I still have to type our Notice of Intent to homeschool (times 2!!) We've made our hotel reservations for our trip to visit Annalise. I have to pack (times 6).... I have some sewing to do that I've put off for far too long.

And yet all I REALLY want to do is rock our new baby. I want to study her face. I want to sniff her little head and ask a jillion questions about her routine, her likes and dislikes and her healthcare.

Still waiting,


Monday, August 1, 2011

Tiny droplets of blessings...

4:59 on Friday afternoon is a moment of dread for every adoptive parent out there. It means your agency is about to close and except for rare occasions you don't hear anything until the office opens again on Monday.

However, this weekend was different. Friday evening I felt defeated and I spent a good amount of time in prayer asking God to please help me to stand the waiting.

Saturday I was shocked to find an email from our adoption coordinator in my inbox! It was confirming our travel dates to visit with Annalise and her foster family. It was a little droplet of encouragement and we counted it as a blessing.

So imagine my surprise when I got another email this evening, answering some questions I had typed asking for more information about Annalise. I sent the email on Friday afternoon and knew it had to go through the proper chain (our coordinator, foster coordinator, foster family and then all the way back!) so I wasn't expecting it back quickly. And yet it came. :)

Another tiny droplet to keep me going...

These tiny crumbs are helping the time pass more quickly.

But I think I've also worn this song out...

Praising and serving Him as we wait,


PS: Brandon and I moved our church letter this morning to the church we've been attending the last couple of months. This is a HUGE milestone after 2.5 years of searching for a church home and visiting a ton of churches (I lost count when we hit the 20's.) To my Warren readers- I have to say, you raised the bar very high! We love you and miss you! It was definitely a bittersweet moment but it feels good to settle in.